First thangs first: check out Chadnudj's post about who's gotta win this week and who's gotta lose this week. It's good stuff, and if you didn't notice it, it's over on the right side of the page over there. (that's where stuff you guys post goes. I can also make it go on the front page, but I kept chad's over there because it makes it look like I have readers when there are posts over there.)
Anyway, I sat down with interviewed sent a few questions via email to Ross from Black Heart Gold Pants to follow up on the podcast I did over there (go listen, if you got a half-hour or so to kill today), and he was kind enough to repond in great length:
-- I saw "9-0" if I got good and drunk before doing some prognosticating, but that's about it. Between the brutal road schedule and the uncertainty at running back, center, defensive tackle, and left cornerback, I was fairly certain we'd run into a pothole or three somewhere along the way. I could try and explain how they're 9-0 in a way that used facts (like turnover margin and pass efficiency defense) or trite cliches (like the fact this team never quits or that they're quintessential hard-working grinder-types)... but those still wouldn't exactly be satisfying.
The honest truth is that this season has been (to this point) an almost ideal confluence of good talent, hard work, and, yes, luck. If you look at the season-defining plays Iowa has had this year, they all fit that description. The coaches recognize a weakness in Penn State's punt coverage team which allows Clayborn to steamroll a guy two-thirds his size and block a punt -- that's skill plus hard work. Being able to have the blocked punt bounce perfectly into Clayborn's arms while he's perfectly in stride -- well that's a bit of luck. McNutt recognizes that he can beat the Michigan State corner on an inside slant, the coaches trust him, the execution is flawless -- once again, skill plus hard work pays off. (That particular play probably involved the least amount of luck of any of these plays, but there were lucky breaks earlier in the drive/game, so we'll call it a wash.) The coaches call a blitz on third and goal, down 21-7 against Indiana (despite the fact that a blitz call in a similar spot in the first half led to a touchdown), the execution is again perfect, as the line and AJ Edds are able to pressure Ben Chappell into rushing his throw, which winds up taking a series of crazy caroms (enter: luck) off four players and lands in the arms of Tyler Sash; and thus the legend of the Pinball Pick Six is born. And so on. Only a fool would argue that this Iowa team hasn't gotten some very advantageous breaks this season, but only a truly ignorant observer would ignore the fact that this Iowa team has also had skilled players well-coached to be in the right positions to maximize the value of those lucky breaks.
The rest, after that jump.
-- As much as I would love to see a repeat of the 62-10 massacre from 2002 (the closest I've ever seen an Iowa team come to pure offensive perfection), I fully realize that that is a pipe dream with this offense. Unless one side has a staggering number of turnovers, I think this will be yet another close, hard fought battle for Iowa. Iowa pulls away a little bit late to make this one a bit more comfortable than the last few heart-stoppers. 27-13, Iowa.
(yeah, that's a jinx.)